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Record December Rains Draw Spawning Salmon to Marin County Creeks

LAGUNITAS -- What a difference six months can make. In July, Marin County creeks were almost bone dry and now there's so much water running through them that salmon are spawning like no one has seen for decades.

It is a testament to the unpredictability of nature that, after the second driest summer in state history, the salmon should have such ideal conditions for spawning.

"I know, it's the most exciting thing ever!" said Andrea Dorn, from El Cerrito. She was part of a group taking a SPAWN CreekWalk Tour Saturday afternoon at Samuel P. Taylor State Park. For the first time in her life, Dorn got to see these fish doing what nature intended, as a female prepared a nest in the gravel while three males jockeyed for position nearby.

"I've never seen it and I've been wanting to witness this for a long time so it's a total thrill to be able to see this ... in action!" Dorn exclaimed.

Salmon watchers have been afraid of what this spawning season might bring, given the depressing intensity of the drought. Todd Steiner, eExecutive director of the Turtle Island Restoration Network, said so much water is flowing at exactly the right time that it is making for a perfect set of conditions for the fish to breed.

"We're seeing fish in places where we haven't seen them in 25 or 30 years and in some places further up the watershed than we've ever seen them before," he said.

SPAWN's conservation director, Preston Brown, had painted a dark scenario for the salmon last summer but said the remarkable turnaround in the creeks has at least brought the population back up to recent normal levels.

"There used to be five thousand go up this creek," he said. "It's still good that we can celebrate maybe 500, 600 fish but every time we get at least that, we're on the road to recovery."

Watching the spawning was a first for ten-year-old Callie Muir and she said it helped to be with a group that could explain what was going on.

"It's so many facts that I get to go home and tell my dad," she said. "So many facts."

It is a cruel fact of nature that the fish will all die once the spawning is complete. But the fact that they were able to finish nature's cycle means their purpose for living has been achieved and the thousands of their offspring will begin the process anew -- as long as there is water to bring them home again.

The Turtle Island Restoration Network, which sponsors the SPAWN program, says there are still openings to join a CreekWalk Tour but the season only lasts until the end of January. For more information or to reserve a spot go to

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